The attempt by Special Council Jack Smith to undermine former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign included the seizure of a Trump ally’s cell phone.
As Epoch Times reported:
A phone belonging to Mr. Perry, an ally of former President Donald Trump, was seized one day after the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence was raided by FBI agents in the summer of 2022.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa) told The Epoch Times in August 2022 that three FBI agents had confiscated his phone, adding that no attempt was made to contact his attorney.
“I’m outraged—though not surprised—that the FBI under the direction of [Attorney General] Merrick Garland’s [Department of Justice (DOJ)], would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” the congressman said in a statement.
“My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business,” he added.
Now on Tuesday, a federal appeals court prevented the team of special counsel Jack Smith from gaining access to Perry’s seized phone records, despite Perry’s efforts to safeguard the records. On September 5, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that vacates portions of a lower court ruling that granted Mr. Smith’s prosecutors access to approximately 2,000 records from Mr. Perry’s phone.
A summary judgment posted in the proceedings indicates that the judges have remanded the case to a district court “to apply the correct standard” to some of Mr. Perry’s records, according to a report by Epoch Times.
In addition, a distinct order issued by the appeals court on September 5 granted Mr. Perry’s attorneys and Mr. Smith’s team a week to indicate whether they believe any portions of the ruling should remain secret.
“In the event the parties conclude that the record or any portion of it should remain under seal, the parties are directed to identify the proposed redactions and provide an explanation for each proposed redaction,” reads a summary order filed in the docket.
Perry has been fighting to keep his phone data private since it was seized. He has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration to compel government officials to return the data and any other property included in the seizure, and to prevent them from acquiring additional information until the case is resolved.
Perry was initially unsuccessful. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell denied Mr. Perry’s request to seal the documents on December 28, 2022. The Obama-appointed judge Howell ruled that the DOJ could access 2,055 documents from the confiscated phone of the lawmaker. She ruled that three additional records could be partially accessed, but that Mr. Perry had properly asserted privilege over 161 additional records.
Perry argued that many of the documents sought by Mr. Smith’s team satisfy this definition because they were created in the course of legislative duties and therefore should not be disclosed to prosecutors.
In her decision, Judge Howell stated that Mr. Perry had attempted to shield “random musings with private individuals” as well as “political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign” and “state legislators regarding hearings on possible local election fraud”
As noted by the Epoch Times, the central legal issue is the court’s interpretation of the “speech or debate” clause of the U.S. Constitution, which immunizes members of Congress from criminal proceedings related to their official duties.
Now that the appeals court’s decision on Sept. 5 rejects portions of Judge Howell’s ruling, with the summary judgment ordering it “vacated in part and remanded to the district court to apply the correct standard to Representative Perry’s communications with individuals outside the federal government, communications with members of the Executive Branch, and communications with other Members of Congress regarding alleged election fraud.”
Previously, a judge “largely sided with the defense team over the scope of materials covered in a protective order,” CBS News reported, granting the former president the ability to speak publicly about material related to the case.
Trump’s legal team argued that only “sensitive materials,” such as grand jury documents, should be off-limits for public discussion.
Additionally, the judge cautioned Trump against making “inflammatory statements” that could “potentially taint the jury pool,” a highly subjective determination.
Trump recently posted on social media:
“Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. Like Election Interference, it is just another ‘trick’ being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election that their candidate, the WORST, MOST INCOMPETENT, & MOST CORRUPT President in U.S. history, is incapable of winning in a Free and Fair Election. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”